Explore the Wonder of Dormancy

We aspire to know how to turn back, pause, and fast forward the clock of life, by studying the peculiarly cool African killifish and its dormant state – Diapause

Explore with Us

Our Team

Chi-Kuo Hu

Chi-Kuo Hu

Principal Investigator / Assistant Professor

I make coffee to fuel the team, and then stay out of their way.

Michelle Vilensky

Michelle Vilensky

Undergradute, Class of 2024, Biology major with a specialization in Quantitative Biology and Bioinformatics and Computer Science

I am excited to be a part of this engaging challenging and fun experience.

Zhejun (Angel) Zheng

Zhejun (Angel) Zheng

Undergradute, Class of 2023, Biochemistry major with Health, Medicine, and Society minor

I watch the fish grow and do my best to ask questions.

Nora Singh

Nora Singh

Undergradute, Class of 2023, Sociology major with Biology minor

I am a motivated pre-med student that loves working in a team, always learning more, and occasionally going to goat yoga classes!

Mira Oflus

Mira Oflus

Undergradute, Class of 2024, Mathematics and Biology major

Wait, this isn’t a sushi restaurant?! (bad joke, or… I <3 diapause and dormancy!)

Arra Ju

Arra Ju

High School Student, Half Hollow Hills High School West, Class of 2022

I am an inspired high school student fascinated by the world of dormancy!

Lu Jia

Lu Jia

Master Student, Biochemistry and Cell Biology

I aim to be true to science, think creatively, and act efficiently

Bod Owens

Bod Owens

Residential Maker

I design 3D printable objects for research and have fun.

Carmen Sandiego

Carmen Sandiego

Lab Mascot

I follow, report, and document activities of the team.

Our Research

Dormancy is an essential phase of life. Our goal is to establish an integrated molecular understanding of dormancy across cells, tissues, and the whole organism. Our research comprises two key components - Diapause as the research subject & the African killifish (Nothobranchius furzeri ) as the research organism. Together, they provide a compelling angle to study dormancy and how it can suspend & protect organisms in vertebrates.

African killifish and diapause embryo

Life runs like a clock. From showing our first heartbeat, to birth, puberty, getting old, and the eventual demise, we reach every milestone in order and on time. While this clock of life apparently can only progress forward and never stop, many organisms in the wild have evolved various forms of dormancy, putting their life on hold to survive through unfavorable conditions. Among different dormancy, diapause is especially intriguing, as not only it has a unique ability to suspend embryonic development, but also it can do so for an extended period of time without compromising subsequent development and adulthood physiology. Diapause is thus also considered a rare non-aging state potentially coupled with the ability of rejuvenation (pause and turn back the clock of life).

Diapause is widespread in both invertebrates and vertebrates, including mammals. However, the high complexity of the vertebrate system and the low accessibility of the embryos inside mammals have limited our knowledge of vertebrate diapause. We overcome these obstacles by developing the naturally fast aging African killifish (fast forward the clock of life) as a research system of vertebrate diapause. Its high number of transparent embryos outside of the female body makes the diapause embryos easy to observe, obtain, and manipulate for a broad range of experiments. The embryos can stay in diapause for up to years, which is several times longer than the African killifish’s months-long lifespan. The characteristics of long diapause coupled with a short lifespan in the African killifish present a uniquely suited platform to feasibly experiment the functional implication of diapause in vertebrates.

Know more about the dual components of our research program

Diapause Killifish

Our research can be summarized into the following directions:

The Signaling to Regulate Diapause

To deepen our knowledge of vertebrate diapause, we study the underlying signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms of diapause across different cells and tissues, and compare them with other forms of dormancy.

Movie: The African killifish embryos can enter diapause at the end of somitogenesis to suspend the development (top embryo) or escape diapause (bottom embryo) to continue the development.

The Mechanism to Suspend Development

To understand how diapause suspends development, we dissect the communications between diapause and developmental principles of cell proliferation, morphogenesis, and differentiation.

Image: The African killifish embryos enter diapause with already developed organs and tissues composed of cells at various differentiated states. Immunostaining - magenta: SOX2 (Neural stem cells / Neural progenitor cells); blue: GFAP (Neural stem cells / Radial glia), green: Acetylated tubulin (Differentiated neurons).

The Ability to Preserve Life

To understand how diapause preserves life, we characterize the interplay between diapause and aging at both physiological and molecular levels. We also work to elucidate the potential rejuvenation coupled with diapause.

Image: The African killifish lives an extremely short lifespan and ages from young (top fish) to old (bottom fish) in a few months. This fast aging process makes it possible to study and follow the whole aging process with a feasible timeline.

The African Killifish for Research and Education

To strengthen the African killifish as a research organism and an educational resource, we characterize its embryogenesis and aging process in detail. We innovate genetic and molecular tools. And we integrate these initiatives into educational training for undergraduate/graduate students and outreach.

Image: The African killifish evolves diapause, allowing the fish to live out of water for months to years to survive the annual drought, a remarkable showcase of selection and adaptation in evolution. Life finds a way.

Our Publications & Resources

Join Us

You might be THE MISSING PIECE! We are always looking for creative & curious mind to complete our dream team.

We love people with different backgrounds working together to study dormant biology, an emerging field with many promising research directions remained unexplored.

We encourage people to develop projects based on their interests & strength, and eventually establish a unique research identity in the field.

We welcome people at various career stages, including undergraduate & graduate students, as well as professionals.

Contact Us

Contact Details

Department of Biochemistry & Cell Biology, Stony Brook University
100 Nicolls Rd, Life Science Bldg #463, Stony Brook, NY 11794
Phone: +1-631-632-8568 (Lab), +1-631-632-8015 (Office)
Fax: +1-631-632-1421
Email: Please write to Chi-Kuo (Chi-Kuo.Hu = stonybrook + edu)